Page 2 8/6/44
Did I ever tell you the story of the three divinity students at Yale, a Protestant, a Catholic and a Jew were comparing how far each might eventually get in their chosen professions. The Protestant said he could start as a curate, become rector of a large parish, advance to Archdeacon and eventually become Bishop. The Catholic snorted and said in his church after becoming a priest, Monsignor. and a Cardinal in tern he might eventually become pope, which is right next to God himself, and what could be higher than that! The Jew shrugged his shoulders and said, “Well, one of our boys made it”.
And so I am pleased to report to you today that “one of our boys made it”. Dan is in France, as evidence of a v-mail letter written from “an orchard in Normandy”. “I am sitting at home in front of my tent while around me a Normandy farmer and his entire family from little Josette (who carries their cider and black bread) to le grande mere (who wields the rake) toiled to gather the hay for the winter fodder. It is a far cry from London, which city we were quite ready to leave, as you must realize. Only distant rumbling of guns keeps us from forgetting the war which seems so out of place here in the peaceful countryside. The channel crossing, although significant, was effected without incident. Our experience with the local folks thus far has been gratifying. We have been able to buy fresh eggs and cherries, which was virtually impossible in London. The people have treated us with the utmost cordiality. My French studies are bearing a bumper crop of fruit now. Please send me as soon as possible a small pocket dictionary (French – English). Also please send some soap. It is scarcer here even then it was in England”.
COMMENT: Once, long years ago, I took your mother, before we were married, to a performance of a light opera called “The Chimes of Normandy”. Little did either of us realize at that time that one day our son would be where he could hear those same chimes, perhaps peeling out the Angeles at close of day. Dan’s words recall Longfellow’s Evangeline:
Sea fogs pitched their tents and mists from the mighty Atlantic
Looked on the happy Valley, but ne’er from this station descended
There, in the midst of its farms, reposed the Acadian village.
Strongly built were the houses, with frames of Oak and Chestnut
Such as the peasants of Normandy built in the reign of the Henry’s
Thatched were the roofs, with dormer windows; and gables projecting
Over the basement below protected and shaded the doorway
There in the tranquil evenings of summer, when brightly the sun set
Lighted the village street, and gilded the vanes on the chimneys,
Matrons and maidens sat in snow white caps and in kirtles
Scarlet and blue and green, with distaff’s spinning the golden
Flax for the gossiping looms, whose noisy shuffles within doors
Mingled their sound with the whir of the wheels and the songs of the maidens
Solemnly down the street came the parish priest, and the children
Paused in their play to kiss the hand he extended to bless them.
Then came the laborers home from the field, and serenely the sun sets
Down to his rest and twilight prevailed. Anon from the belfry,
Softly the Angelus sounded, and over the roofs of the village
Columns of pale blue smoke, like clouds of incense ascending
Rose from a hundred hearths, the homes of peace and contentment.
But to return to the practical, a box containing your French – English dictionary, which has been reposing in the bookcase here patiently awaiting your summons, together with five takes of ivory soap and a tube of lather less shaving cream which I have found be very good for a quick, shape, all packed in a box is already on its way to your new APO number.
Dan, next time you write have your secretary jot down somewhere in fine print whether or not you ever received the box of soap, toilet articles and smoking materials I sent you so long ago. I read somewhere the mosquitoes in Normandy were pretty bad. How about flies? Would you like a flyswatter for your tent? In case you run short of soap, I should think some of your lathering shaving cream would do as a substitute. Anyway, I hope the package reaches you promptly. It was mailed about August 4.
Tomorrow, I’ll post the next installment of this long letter. We’ll hear from California and Grandpa’s additional comments.
On Thursday and Friday, we will have the final sections of the letter.